Lawmakers Introduce Bill That Would Protect Neutral Net

If passed, the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2014 could counteract the FCC's attempt at allowing Internet fast lanes.

by / June 19, 2014

On June 17, lawmakers from Vermont and California introduced a new piece of legislation supporting net neutrality called the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2014. The bill would prohibit Web content owners from paying Internet service providers to deliver their content at faster speeds.

Introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Rep. Doris Matsui of California, the bill highlights an ongoing battle between big business and Internet rights advocacy groups.

"Americans are speaking loud and clear," Leahy told the Washington Post. "They want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider."

The bill comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collects public feedback on its own proposed net neutrality rules that would abolish the Internet’s current data neutrality, allowing prioritized traffic in instances where it is deemed “commercially reasonable.” This announcement led to online protests and website blackouts in support of a neutral net.

Before becoming president, Obama vowed to instate net neutrality laws to protect the Internet -- but he has not opposed the FCC’s proposed rule changes.

Internet advocacy groups praised the recent bill supporting net neutrality, but warned that it is not a complete solution as it does not create oversight to the FCC’s decisions.

Some have proposed that Internet services be reclassified as a utility, making Internet service providers subject to more regulation, but that wouldn’t necessarily ensure neutrality either, given the vague wording of the FCC’s proposed rules.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he's reserving the reclassification option, but is reluctant to spark a new controversy when the issue is already so contentious.

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